Pyrenean Shepherd Overview
- Dog Breed:
- Pyrenean Shepherd
- Breed Group:
- Herding Group
- Active, bossy, mischievous, smart and tough
- 15.5 -20.5 inches
- 15-30 pounds
- Life Span:
- 15-17 years
- Coat Colors:
- Fawn, grey, and merle
- Area of Origin:
- Best For:
- Family homes/Keen interest in training/Active Lifestyle
Pyrenean Shepherd Characteristics
Pyrenean Shepherd Gallery
About The Pyrenean Shepherd
Originating from the Pyrenees Mountains in France
Strong herding ability
Two varieties rough and smooth-faced
The Pyrenean Shepherd is a powerhouse of energy despite being the smallest of the French herding breeds. Originating from the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, their strong ability with livestock means that just two Pyrenean Sheepdogs are considered to be enough to herd over 1,000 sheep!
Two varieties have developed, the Rough-Faced type, which has a long coat and some long hairs on the face and the Smooth-Faced variety, which has less coat and short hair on the face. The Pyrenean Shepherd is also known by their French name, Berger des Pyrénées.
Intelligent with excellent problem-solving skills, it’s highly likely that when left to their own devices, that they’re going to get into trouble. So, this all means that Pyr Shep needs a very active family and lifestyle.
Pyrenean Shepherd Breed History
History of over 12,000 years!
Working dog in world War I
Arrived in North America in the 19th century
The Pyrenean Shepherd has always been found in the Pyrenees Mountains of Southern France. Within this area, bones have been found of small dogs that date right back to Neolithic times, so that’s over 12,000 years ago. It’s also known that sheep and goat herding was widespread by 4000BC. So, this is no newcomer to the dog world!
The Pyrenean Shepherd was used solely for herding and not for protection, which fell into the paws of the Great Pyrenees breed. This meant that they didn’t need to defend themselves and their small size was valued. It also made them quicker and more capable of being agile across windy crags.
The breed was a working dog throughout World War I and used as a courier to relay messages between troops, as a search and rescue dog to find injured soldiers and to accompany guards on their patrols.
The Pyr Shep arrived in North America during the 19th century when they accompanied flocks of sheep which were imported from the Pyrenees Mountains. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that a breeding pair was introduced into the US, and then the1987 Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America was established. Finally, In 2009, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Pyrenean Shepherd Size & Weight
Height and weight differences dependent on coat type
Height between 15-21 inches
Weight between 15-30 pounds
The required height for the Pyr Shep depends on their sex and their coat type. So, for males, that means 15.5-18.5 inches if they are rough-faced and then 15.5-21 inches if they are smooth-faced. For females, it’s 15-18 inches for the rough-faced variety and 15.5-20.5 inches for the smooth-faced. There’s quite a range with regards to their weight, which can be anything between 15-30 pounds.
There should, however, be no mistaking these dogs as having a ‘small dog’ mentality. These are no lapdog, and they can be a whirlwind of a breed to own.
Pyrenean Shepherd Personality & Temperament
Devoted to their family
Needs ongoing socialization with new people
Enthusiastic and lively, the Pyrenean Sheepdog is the perfect fit for an owner who shares the same traits! Highly intelligent, this is a dog who needs regular training and is an ideal choice for performance sports such as agility and of course, herding.
They are a breed that becomes totally devoted to their family, and this can mean that they are less willing to meet and socialize with other people. While this caused no problems up in the French mountains, it does mean that the Pyrenean Sheepdog needs carefully planned socialization and lots of positive interactions with people to become confident and at ease within an urban or city environment.
Playful by nature, the Pyr Shep gets on well with both children and other family pets. Do be aware that they may decide to take control of situations if not supervised with both children and other dogs finding themselves being herded into place.
With a dog who is so focused on their family, it will be distressing for them to be left out. So this is not a dog who will do well if left alone for long periods. With their mountain heritage, this is a dog who can adapt well to a cold-weather climate while also being content in warmer conditions.
Pyrenean Shepherd Health & Grooming
Generally, a healthy breed
Breeders should check dogs for genetic conditions before breeding
Longer coats will need regular or professional grooming
The Pyr Shep is generally a healthy and long-lived breed, but there are some genetic defects that reputable breeders will check for before breeding.
- Hip Dysplasia has been found within the breed. This is a condition that causes deformities in how the socket and cup of the hip joint sit together. Problems here can cause lameness and pain.
- Patellar subluxation causes a partial dislocation of the knee cap. Surgery is then needed to secure the structure in place, preventing further pain for the dog.
- Eye defects, including choroidal hypoplasia (CH), and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Annual eye tests and checks on the pups’ eyes between 5-7 weeks are recommended by the breed club.
Grooming needs vary depending on the coat length of your Pyrenean Shepherd. Both varieties have a double coat, so that’s a soft undercoat and a protective harsher outer coat. The outer coat does tend to shed quite a bit, while the soft undercoat needs careful attention to prevent it from becoming matted.
Some owners leave the longer coats to form cords, but these need professional care. Simply combing out the hair on a weekly basis may be an easier option. Special attention should be made to checking your Pry Shep’s feet as this is an area where mats can quickly form.
Pyrenean Shepherd Training
Training is a must for this breed
Strong herding instinct
Loves playing games
As an intelligent and working breed, training is essential for the well-being of the Pyrenean Shepherd. Their herding instinct is still very strong, and this may get them into trouble unless it’s redirected more productively! If herding isn’t an option, then performance sports such as flyball, agility, and scent work will provide the opportunity to tire out both their bodies and their brains.
They also love games that involve speed and power. With their nimbleness and ability to jump way over what their height would predict, disc dog training can be a great choice.
The Pyrenean Shepherd can be a sensitive dog in training. This means that the use of punishment when teaching new behaviors will not get the best results, and it may also affect the relationship you have with your dog.
With that herding instinct, it means that this is a breed with a strong tendency to chase prey. Teaching a great recall will allow your Pyr Shep to enjoy off-leash exercise safely. Another aspect of the herding behavior can be nipping, a tactic used to move reluctant stock out in the field. Teaching your dog alternative behaviors when they become over-excited, such as walking to heel or an immediate down, can prevent this from becoming a problem.
Pyrenean Shepherd Exercise Requirements
Training is a must for this breed
Strong herding instinct
Loves playing games
This is a high energy breed, and so they will need free running exercise every day of the year, no matter the weather. When a Pry Shep doesn’t get its exercise needs met, then you’re likely to see the development of behavioral problems such as inappropriate herding.
At least an hour’s walk is needed every day, but they will enjoy and flourish with much more. The opportunity to walk in different environments, such as on mountain trails and through forests, will also provide much needed mental stimulation.
Pyrenean Shepherds will love to take part in games with you and your family in the garden. They’ll love retrieving toys, catching a frisbee, and hide and seek games.
Pyrenean Shepherd Diet & Feeding
Seek out professional advice on your Pyr Shepherds dietary needs
Consider age, life stage, and activity level when choosing a food
Introduce new foods slowly to prevent stomach upsets
For advice on the nutritional needs of your Pyrenean Shepherd, do first speak with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist. When then choosing a food, then consider the age, life stage, and activity level of your dog, most brands now offer a wide range of foods to meet your individual dog’s needs.
Most pups move over to adult food at around 6 months of age. Do make this a slow and steady change, adding in the new diet and reducing the old food over a week. This will reduce the likelihood of any stomach upsets.
Pyrenean Shepherd Rescue Groups
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is a rare breed within the US, and so very few dogs find themselves in need of a new home. It does, however, happen occasionally, and then the breed club, The Pyrenean Sheepdog Club of America, can provide help – http://www.pyrshepclub.org/find-a-pyr-shep/rescue/.
The club’s website also provides a whole range of information on the breed – http://www.pyrshepclub.org/.